It's National Preservation Month

Hooray! Here are some ideas for you and your friends and neighbors to take action and celebrate preservation activity.

Now is the time to assess home and barn need and start working through your list.

Now is the time to assess home and barn need and start working through your list.

Take care of your old home. Springtime means checking for winter damage, inspecting foundations and painting! Hire a professional to do an assessments so you don't waste time or resources. Re-tune old windows to improve operations, increase energy efficiency and preserve original features of an old house. Check out our calendar regarding barn workshops and other gatherings here.

Appreciate your community. Look at the place where you live (your street, road or neighborhood) and note how many historic buildings and structures you can see. Show your kids the building where you went to school, or where you got married. Support your local farm, and thank a neighbor who has fixed up his or her barn. Are there places you can't imagine your community without? Start a conversation with other interested citizens to consider planning tools like easements and tax incentives to turn a challenge into an opportunity.

  The award-winning Langdon Meetinghouse restoration benefited from LCHIP grants.  
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The award-winning Langdon Meetinghouse restoration benefited from LCHIP grants.


Be an advocate for preserving our heritage. Express your support to state and local officials for the  Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, New Hampshire's popular and effective matching grants program for historic preservation and land conservation projects. Volunteer to serve on your local planning board, library board, cemetery commission, or downtown organization. Help with a local preservation project. Enjoy dinner in an old inn or a play or concert at a historic theater. 

Share your successes and concerns. Come to our annual awards celebration! And we want to hear from you! Keep us posted on what's happening in your community. We welcome your thoughts and ideas. Post on our Facebook page or send to Jennifer Goodman.

More from our national partners, National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The People Who Make It Happen

Putting the People in Preservation

We have a propensity to remove people from photographs of buildings. Sometimes this makes sense. For instance, in survey work, the intent is to have the building speak for itself – we want to notice the cornice, not the corduroys. Folks in the Vernacular Architecture Forum (the “premier organization in North America dedicated to the appreciation and study of ordinary buildings and landscapes”) are infamous for their desire to capture buildings sans humans.

At the VAF annual conference, like last year in Durham, NC, everyone stands back and allows photographers to capture the buildings before people get in the way.

At the VAF annual conference, like last year in Durham, NC, everyone stands back and allows photographers to capture the buildings before people get in the way.

Historically, it’s difficult to find photographs of buildings without people. Families gathered in front of their house and barn, showcasing their horses, wagons, farming equipment, and pets. It is clear that the pride in the house was tied to the people who made the farm and animals operate. Photographs with humans are infinitely more interesting because those images resonate with us on an emotional and social level.

The Jerome Hoyt Farm in Grafton, with the whole family in front.Grafton Historical Society.

The Jerome Hoyt Farm in Grafton, with the whole family in front.Grafton Historical Society.

The preservation world is often maligned for caring about buildings more than we care about people. We’re the people who restrict paint colors, reject additions to historic houses, or recommend treatments that cost more money than anticipated. It can be argued that preservation tools restrict the creativity and quirkiness that was responsible for providing our current generation with the very buildings or architectural details that excite preservationists today.

I would argue that preservationists do care about people – we advocate for saving old buildings because they are often the most visceral, tangible, and sentimental connections we have to our ancestors. Houses are not just filled with layers of paint and linoleum, but saturated with memories and stories yet to be told.

Maybe we are poor marketers. We expend so much energy promoting and celebrating buildings that we forget to share the secret behind projects’ successes: the people. Every preservation project succeeds because of a dedicated band of volunteers who spend Saturdays flipping pancakes, writing grants, and priming clapboards. Money helps, but it is seldom the driving force.

The Effingham Preservation Society raised funds to restore its headquarters in the former Drake’s General Store building through pie sales, Saturday coffees, concerts, and art shows.Courtesy of the Effingham Preservation Society.

The Effingham Preservation Society raised funds to restore its headquarters in the former Drake’s General Store building through pie sales, Saturday coffees, concerts, and art shows.Courtesy of the Effingham Preservation Society.

Our New Hampshire landscape exists because generations before us dreamed of building glorious steeples and endowing ornate libraries, evenin the smallest of towns. They exist today because people care to preserve these landmarks that have come to symbolize their community’s strength and permanence.

In my journeys across New Hampshire, I meet the people who make preservation projects happen. I relish those interactions as much as my ability to see these landmarks. My job wouldn’t be much fun if these buildings stood empty with no one to greet me.

At our annual preservation achievement awards, we make sure to tell the stories of the people. We want to celebrate the town of 800 that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore their meetinghouse, the homeowners that sacrificed greater returns on investment for the sake of history, and the committees that spent decades making incremental progress on their schoolhouse.

And yes, we make sure to include photographs of the people who make it all happen.

Taking the Pulse of Preservation Trends

The Preservation Alliance, in preparing for its April 21 conference, checked in with some key observers to explore what’s trending and what’s classic.   We asked, what’s working in preservation right now, what trends do preservationists need to know about, and what areas need work? Here’s what we learned.

Preservation activity is boosted by consumer desire for authenticity and community. Throwback Brewery in North Hampton and Sweetwater Farm & Distillery in Winchester use their historic buildings to reinforce their local vibe. Concord’s pedestrian-friendly Main Street project and associated redevelopment of historic buildings has sparked a surge in new eateries, a restaurant expansion, and a new nano-brewery. Ben Wilson, director of the Bureau of Historic Sites within the N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation, reports guests are looking to experience our authentic, well-maintained rural villages and scenic landscapes. “Relocating business owners often speak to the cultural, historic and recreational resources afforded by the state,” he said. “Visitors to our state’s historic sites frequently tell our guide staff how impressed they are by the stories of our cultural past and how accessible we make it to the general public. The preservation of our historic communities and rural architecture allows our visitors to experience a cultural landscape lost to the majority of the country.”

Barn-raising-type activity also continues to flourish. Recently, a group of Andover residents got together to buy the old town hall to save it. New Hampshire communities like Tamworth are adopting the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy (PARE) model of “barn-raising,” following the tradition of neighbor helping neighbor. PARE conducts “Energy Raisers” where volunteers help residents with energy-efficient systems installations to bring down costs, and increase understanding for property owners and tradespeople.

Large landscapes and cultural areas are getting more attention.  It’s not just the buildings we’re trying to save.  The Freedom’s Way Heritage Area, which includes Nashua, Brookline, Amherst, Mason, Greenville, New Ipswich and Milford and several towns in Massachusetts, celebrates a region linked by common history, evolution and current goals. Advocates involved in large energy project reviews, such as Northern Pass, are pointing to special places like the center of Deerfield and the White Mountain landscapes that may be impacted. Both types of initiatives benefit from models like recent National Register-related work around Squam Lakes and inventory and analysis done in Harrisville and Dublin a generation ago that looked at broad historical patterns of land use to refine preservation practice and priorities.


Preserving and celebrating social history and cultural diversity is another area of emerging activity. The leaders of the new Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire envision a network snaking through nearly a dozen towns and featuring as many as 60 sites — some of which are already recognized by their town’s historical societies or the state.  JerriAnne Boggis, the new executive director, welcomes nominations and support. “The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire will work to visibly honor and expose a true, more inclusive history in our state through exhibits, programs and tours that can change the way our country understands human dignity when it is free of historical stereotypes,” Boggis said. “Given the heightening of racial tension in our country, the expansion of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail to include other towns across the state couldn’t be more timely”

Investors are mixing old business models with new tools for strong results.  Hybrids aren’t just a type of car. We’re seeing more and more historic sites looking at long-term leases to compatible users as a viable business model that enhances ability to meet their missions of educating the public, as well as preserving historic buildings and materials. Strawbery Banke Museum’s Heritage House Program is a large-scale, strong-market model of this that can be scaled for others. In New Hampshire, legislators and other policy makers are considering new or enhanced incentives to add to the toolbox to promote preservation and economic development. For example, SB 185 ties local-option tax relief to private investment in resiliency to prepare for severe storms.  Another proposal seeks to increase the tax credits available to the Community Development Finance Authority.

Dig into these topics (and many others) at the Preservation Alliance’s April 21 conference, Preserving Community Character: Critical Issues and Opportunities.  


Town meeting this year resulted in several preservation victories across the state.

Here’s what we learned:

Overall, voters were generous, though articles that requested smaller amounts of money to go toward planning studies or capital reserve funds were passed more easily. Persistence also seemed to pay off for the towns of Washington and Bradford, where voters approved bond measures for substantial restoration and rehabilitation work on town-owned landmarks. Advocates noted that planning for capital projects and vigorous, strategic communication were important elements to their success.

Washington Town Hall

Washington Town Hall

Washington voters approved a $1.281 million bond for restoration and rehabilitation work at their iconic 1787 meetinghouse (Seven to Save, 2014). The measure passed 135-26. Another substantial rehabilitation will happen in Bradford, where voters approved $861,000 for their town hall (Seven to Save, 2014). That money will help match an LCHIP grant of $105,000. Bradford voters also approved $50,000 to repair the Bement Covered Bridge.

Drew Mill Dam, Wakefield

Drew Mill Dam, Wakefield

In Wakefield, voters approved $24,407 for the restoration of the remaining thirty-five windows at their town hall, an amount which LCHIP will double. Voters also put $11,500 in a capital reserve for town hall maintenance. A petitioned article asking for $34,500 for engineering and repair work at the Drew Mill Dam (Seven to Save, 2012) also passed.

In Wolfeboro, voters approved three articles pertaining to the reuse of the former freight shed. The building will be leased to the Lakes Region Model Railroad Association for use as a museum. The Association will also benefit from $95,000 in a dedicated capital reserve fund intended to restore the building.

New Hampton

New Hampton

In New Hampton, threat of demolition of the grange hall prompted voters to approve $4,000 for a planning study for the building, and also $150,000 for its relocation to a new foundation nearly two miles away.

Planning studies will take place in Meredith, where $50,000 was approved for the existing library at the Benjamin M. Smith building (Seven to Save, 2016).  Nearby in Center Harbor, voters approved $7,600 for an assessment of the schoolhouse. Voters also approved $5,000 for rehabilitation of the town house, which will be used as matching funds for LCHIP. Center Harbor also created a Town Property Stewardship Expendable Trust for periodic monitoring and maintenance of town-owned assets, and funded it with $4,000.

Another Seven to Save listee in Middleton (2011) will receive $60,000 from the town for continued work at their old town hall, which includes murals by itinerant artist John Avery.

In New Durham, voters approved $10,000 to join the capital reserve fund for the old meetinghouse (Seven to Save, 2012). Similarly, Swanzey voted $50,000 in reserves toward the restoration of Whitcomb Hall. Stratham passed its Capital Improvements Plan for 2017, which includes $50,000 for a Heritage Preservation Fund.

A straw poll in Belmont provided answers to three questions posed to voters regarding the future of the Belmont Mill. Article 6 asked if the building should be used for town offices and community space (440 yes – 267 no). Article 7 asked if the building should be demolished (170 yes – 522 no). Article 8 asked if the building should be sold, which drew a closer vote (383 yes – 320 yes).



Two communities also adopted preservation tools that will help advance preservation projects. Lancaster will join thirty communities that have adopted RSA 79-E, a tax incentive tool for revitalizing downtown commercial buildings. Windham voters approved an article to allow the Conservation Commission to pursue a permanent “curatorship lease agreement” for the Campbell Farm House. The Italianate house sits on 62 acres of conservation land acquired by the town in 2014, but until this year, the status of the house was in question. The new directive will allow the Commission to find a tenant who will monitor, maintain, repair, restore, and improve the house as part of the lease.

Energy efficiency projects also received attention this year. Grafton’s town hall will receive $10,000 worth of electrical and systems upgrades. Voters in Littleton said yes to $44,200 worth of energy improvements at the opera house, at the recommendation of an energy audit, and voters in Wilton approved $300,000 worth of heating, wiring, and safety upgrades at their town hall.

Measures that were not successful this year included Ashland School (Seven to Save, 2007) for $625,000 for use as the town library and an article requesting $18,250 for a planning study to match an LCHIP award. In Rye, all three articles relating to the town hall (Seven to Save, 2015) failed: one asking $3.2 million to restore and expand the existing town hall, one asking $500,000 to restore the town hall exterior and address ADA concerns, and one asking $3.4 million to build a facsimile of the old town hall on the same site.  David Choate, who helped Rye Heritage Commission members communicate the benefits of the rehabilitation, said “we’re disappointed, but know this work can take time. We welcome advice as we work on plans for the building’s continuing use and improvement.”

Also unsuccessful was an attempt to add an elevator shaft to the Deerfield Town Hall, though the town hall will receive a new roof. An attempt in Sandown to create the state’s sixty-third Heritage Commission failed, 314-270.

Please contact Andrew Cushing at with additions, corrections or comments. The Preservation Alliance was pleased to help several of the “winners” to succeed, and appreciates the opportunity to help all communities with projects for Town Meeting and other important events throughout the year.